(Editor’s note: This is a corrected version of the story, noting that the program can be streamed on YouTube; the time and date are the same. The link is embedded in the text.)
Every year, hundreds of Louisvillians gather somewhere in the city – a synagogue, a theater, a college campus – to remember the victims of the Holocaust.
That won’t happen this year, the 75th anniversary of end of the most horrific genocide in history, because of the coronavirus pandemic, but the differences don’t end there.
While there will be a Yom HaShoah program in Louisville this week, for the first time, probably ever, it won’t be live, or even live streamed.
It will be a pre-recorded video, which will be available for screening at 7 p.m., Wednesday, April 22, on YouTube. The link will be shared on Community’s Facebook and web pages as soon as it is available.
Matt Goldberg, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council, said logistical problems with a live program streamed from several homes prompted the decision to go with a pre-recorded video his year.
“We thought it would be tighter and much easier logistically if it was all in the can already,” he said.
A video also allows people to view it at their convenience. “It will stay up for good,” Goldberg said.
The 24-minute video, produced by Mike Fitzer at 180 Degrees, was three weeks in the making.
“This is one of the first [Jewish content videos] I was asked to do, so I’m very excited,” Fitzer said. (He also made a documentary about last year’s Violins of Hope, a traveling exhibit of restored string instruments that survived the Holocaust. It had been scheduled to premiere on March 23, but the onset of the coronavirus delayed that event.)
The video, simply titled Yom HaShoah, is structured around the lighting of 11 memorial candles, remembering the 11 million Jewish and non-Jewish victims of the Holocaust – a traditional feature of the annual observance here.
This year, though, there will be no actual candle-lighters. Instead, PowerPoint-style slides will display messages with already-lit candles flickering on the screen.
There will be actual participants, though. Cantors David Lipp will sing the Yiddish tune Yidl Mitn Fidl. Rabbi Michael Wolk will recount the Jews at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp who in 1944 managed to observe Passover. Cantor Sharon Hordes will chant El Maleh Rachamim and Rabbi Beth Jacowitz Chottiner will lead the Mourners Kaddish, interspersing the names of death camps and modern day acts of genocide between the lines of the prayer.
A clip from a KET interview with journalist and Holocaust survivor Fred Gross, and a message from Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer also are in the video.
“We tried to follow at least some semblance of tradition [of the ceremony] as best we could given the circumstances,” Fitzer said.
Jessica Loving participated in the project, writing copy and scripts, arranging for interviews and obtaining self-made videos from some rabbis and cantors. She also helped with the editing of the video.
The video also will include a sneak peak at his Violins of Hope documentary.
“We have not had a Yom HaShoah program since Violins of Hope and there is no scheduled premiere for the documentary,” Goldberg said. “We thought it might be a nice addition to include some footage.”
Before the coronavirus outbreak, the JCRC had been planning the screening of the documentary Nobody Wants Us, the story of the Portuguese steamship Quanza, which carried Jewish refugees, mostly from Belgium, to the United States in 1940. Like the S.S. St. Louis the year before, the passengers were initially denied entry into the country. Unlike the St. Louis, those aboard the Quanza eventually did get in.
Goldberg said he plans to screen the film at next year’s observance.